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Week December 2nd to December 8th 2004.
HOLIDAY FRAUD HITS AXARQUIA
Scam leaves tourists high and dry
BY DAVE JAMIESON
DOZENS OF HOLIDAYMAKERS IN THE AXARQUÍA HAVE LOST MONEY IN A FRAUD BY A PRIVATE TOUR OPERATOR WHO HAD NO LEGAL AUTHORISATION.
Early last week, 60 people arrived at Torre del Mar bus station, complete with luggage, looking forward to a holiday in Tenerife for which each had paid 148 euros. They soon realised that there was no coach, no holiday and, of course, no refund. The package deal which they had paid for included seven days, full board accommodation in a four-star hotel, with transport.
Later in the week, another 15 people turned up at the bus station for the start of their four-day weekend break at three-star hotels in Cádiz and Huelva for which they had paid 57 euros, only to be met with the same disappointment.
NO HOLIDAY FOR BRITS
Mr and Mrs Gabbitas of Torre del Mar told Costa del Sol News that they booked the Cádiz trip, having spotted a poster advertising it during October. Despite the fact that the operator, who is understood to have advertised extensively along the eastern coast, worked out of his own apartment, Mr and Mrs Gabbitas said, “It did not seem ‘too good to be true’.” They and friends handed over the cash, and subsequently contacted the operator again to confirm details.
The fact that the operator worked from his apartment and not from a legal establishment was admittedly strange to the Gabbitas but they added: “ We saw a lot of Spanish pensioners there booking trips and we were lead to believe that this was a normal custom in Spain. The operator was very attentive and phoned us several times with information about our trip and other available holidays.”
OFF WITH THE MONEY
All was well until they called to see him once more, two days before the trip was to take place, only to be told by a lady looking after the apartment that he had gone to the Canaries and not returned, and that the police were searching for him and for their money.
A total of 80 ‘denuncias’ from both foreign residents and nationals have now been filed against the operator. The National Police in Torre del Mar confirmed that they were searching for the man who is alleged to have defrauded his customers to the tune of around 9,000 euros.
EU INVESTIGATES POSSIBLE DISCRIMINATION AGAINST FO
BY DAVID EADE
THE SUBVENTIONS GIVEN TO THOSE PEOPLE ON THE OFFICIAL CENSUS (PADRÓN) IN FUENGIROLA AND TORREMOLINOS IS BEING INVESTIGATED BY THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION TO ASCERTAIN WHETHER THERE IS ANY DISCRIMINATION BETWEEN SPANIARDS AND FOREIGN RESIDENTS.
Foreigners who are not official residents in Spain believe they are being discriminated against by town halls on the Costa del Sol. It is alleged that they pay more in local taxes for having a second home than Spaniards and this aspect of the debate has renewed discussion on the problems of the financing of tourist municipalities that receive no help whatsoever in funding the increase in services required by the huge increase in their local populations during the summer months.
The investigation started after a request from two British Conservative MPs, Charles Tannock, the Conservative Foreign Affairs Spokesman in the European Parliament, and Teresa Villiers for the EC to investigate the subventions given for the IBI tax received by those who are officially registered as residents of Torremolinos and Fuengirola to the detriment of those who are not registered.
It has been alleged that Torremolinos Town Hall has discriminated against the foreigners who do not reside in the municipality all year round when it comes to collecting the IBI tax. The European Commissioner for the Internal Market, Frits Bolkenstein, says he has no evidence that discrimination exists between Spaniards and foreigners but has decided to open an investigation to examine the allegations.
TORREMOLINOS AND FUENGIROLA REFUTE ACCUSATIONS
Torremolinos Town Hall has stated that there is no distinction between non-residents, be they Spanish or foreigners in the payment of IBI. In November 2003 the administration increased the tax by 0.66 to 1.10 but it did not affect those officially registered with the town hall for a period of two years. A spokesperson for the town hall stated it hoped in this way to increase the official registered population of the town so that the municipality would receive more state aid to pay for the services it had to provide for the more than 200,000 people in the town as opposed to the funding it receives for the 54,000 who are official residents.
The same situation exists in Fuengirola where the Partido Popular administration of mayor Esperanza Oña approved a 43 per cent rise in the IBI tax, but allowed a subvention for those who are officially registered as residents as the town hall. Sra Oña has argued that the rise is legal and discriminates against nobody, as the rise is the same for the entire world. She added that to receive the subvention all people had to do, be they Spaniard or foreigners, was to officially register as residents at the town hall.
More damning evidence against Tony King
By David Eade
The Guardia Civil have detected the genetic profile of Tony Alexander King in a hair found in some plastic discovered next to the body of young murder victim Rocio Wanninkhof. This is the second piece of DNA evidence to link the Briton with the crime.
In a statement the Guardia Civil pointed to this “indubitable” evidence that Tony King had been close to where the body of Rocio Wanninkhof was dumped in Los Altos de Rodeo in Marbella, some 32 kilometres from where she is believed to have been murdered. King’s DNA has already been found on a cigarette stub at the same site.
NEW DNA TECHNIQUES
The Guardia Civil pointed to the advances in DNA techniques that had allowed them to create a genetic profile from the analysis of the many items found at the place where the body was discovered on November 2, 1999. After the case was re-opened in 2003 by Fuengirola court forensic officers re-examined the large amount of items found at the site using these new techniques.
These results have been sent to the court that is handling the case along with the new analysis using the latest detection methods. This proof only became available after the court hearing in September where the judge stated that there was no direct proof that Dolores Vázquez had been involved with the murder of Rocio Wanninkhof, although she had previously been found guilty of the crime.
NO EVIDENCE AGAINST VÁZQUEZ AND GRAHAM
The court also decided to halt the case against Vázquez and another Briton Robert Graham but to maintain the imputation against King, who continues to be held in jail because of his alleged involvement in the death of another teenager, Sonia Carabantes in Coín.
The news of the latest DNA finds linking Tony King to Rocio Wanninkhof’s death has been welcomed by her mother, Alicia Hornos. However she still maintains that both Vázquez and Graham were involved in her daughter’s murder along with King.
Fuengirola's Imam goes to prison
Arrest ordered by Barcelona judge
By David Eade
THE IMAM OF FUENGIROLA'S MOSQUE, MOHAMAD KAMAL MOSTAFA, HAS FINALLY STARTED HIS 15 MONTHS PRISON SENTENCE AFTER BEING FOUND GUILTY BY A BARCELONA COURT OF PROMOTING SEXUAL VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN IN HIS BOOK 'LA MUJER EN EL ISLAM'.
It is usual in sentences of less than two years for the court to waive imprisonment but the Barcelona judge decided that the Imam was a "social danger " and ordered he be jailed. This led to public protests of innocence on the part of the Imam. He also wrote to a letter of apology to Spain's Islamic council stressing he was against all types of violence and that his book had been misinterpreted.
Nonetheless his pleas of innocence fell on judicial deaf ears and last Wednesday the judge of Barcelona's number 12 court ordered a 'find and capture' order be issued against the religious leader. A day later the court agreed to waive the arrest order on the basis that the Imam voluntarily presented himself for imprisonment within three days.
On Saturday over 100 of the Imam's followers demonstrated outside Málaga Town Hall. They carried posters and placards demanding "Justice, Liberty for the Imam". Many of the protestors were Islamic women who stated that they were all against violence to their sex and pointed out that the Imam also opposed violence in all its forms.
The case against the Imam was first brought by women's group in Spain who protested that his book promoted the use of discreet violence against women. The Imam protested his innocence, claiming he was only reproducing Islamic texts and that he had opposed violence of all kinds. In the present escalation of domestic violence cases in Spain it may be that the Barcelona court felt it had to make an example of the Imam's case but its actions have certainly opened up a further rift with Islamic groups who claim religious persecution.
Jewellery theft Brit arrest
News Staff Reporter
The Royal Gibraltar Police have arrested a Briton for allegedly stealing two gold rings from a local jewellery shop. The man was identified by police as a 26-year-old who lives on the Rock. He was jointly charged with a female minor aged 15 over the theft.
A police spokesperson stated: "On the 9 November 2004 as a result of certain information received from a member of the public, a local couple were arrested by uniformed police on suspicion of stealing a number of gold rings. As a result of a joint operation between CID officers and uniformed officers and after carrying out certain enquiries it was established that the said couple had stolen four rings from different jewellers in Gibraltar."
The Briton has been further charged with stealing two other gold rings from different jewellers in Gibraltar. Both the man and the minor have appeared in court and are currently on court bail. The value of the recovered rings is put at £2,500 and police are still continuing with their enquiries.
Trafalgar marine wind park
Project will employ 12,000 people
By David Eade
THE HYDROELECTRIC ENERGY CORPORATION OF NAVARRA (EHN) IS TO INVEST 2,000 MILLION EUROS IN THE CONSTRUCTION OF A WIND POWER-GENERATING PARK OFF THE COAST OF CÁDIZ. THE PROJECT WILL BE THE FIRST OFFSHORE VENTURE IN SPAIN AND WILL BE LOCATED IN THE TRAFALGAR SEA, THE SITE OF THE FAMOUS 1805 NAVAL BATTLE.
The work to construct the wind power-generating park will commence in 2007 and it should be operational in 2010. According to EHN delegate, Esteban Morrás, the project will bring employment for around 12,000 people.
Morrás stated that the wind park will be situated around 20 nautical miles off the Cape Trafalgar (Cabo de Trafalgar) on the Barbate coast. When operational the wind generators will have an output of between 600 and 1,000 megawatts.
Sea-based wind power generating plants have been favourably received by ecological groups as they respect the environment and cut down on the production of carbon dioxide. Last year Greenpeace promoted a plan that would see a series of such offshore parks located off Cádiz, Levante, Galicia and the Canary Islands.
Fighting back the beetles
News Staff Reporter
The progress of plans to eradicate a plague of beetles attacking palm trees in the Axarquía and Granada has been revealed. The Junta de Andalucía says that the insect, rhynchophorus ferrigineus or red palm weevil, has caused havoc in eight Andalucía municipalities, including Nerja, Frigiliana, Torrox and Vélez-Málaga, plus Almuñécar, Salobreña, Motril and Molvízar in Granada. Originating in southern Asia and Melanesia, where it is a serious pest of coconuts, the beetle has been advancing westwards very rapidly since the mid 1980s.
Damage to palms is produced mainly by the larvae feeding on the soft fibres and terminal bud tissues. They move towards the interior of the palm making tunnels and large cavities and can be found in any place within the palm. Usually the damage is only visible long after infection and by the time the first symptoms of the attack appear, they are so serious that they generally result in the death of the tree, the first victim in Spain being recorded in Almuñécar.
Around 14,000 plants are being treated in the eight local centres which, by the end of the year, will reduce the number of infected specimens to 90, compared with 356 in 1997. The director general of Agricultural Production for the Junta, Manuel Sánchez, said that the plague, first identified in 1995, was now under control.
Two thousand people march in Benalmádena
BY DAVID EADE
OVER 2,000 PEOPLE MARCHED FROM THE CASA DE LA CULTURA THROUGH THE STREETS OF ARROYO DE LA MIEL IN A PEACEFUL PROTEST AGAINST THE LOCAL TOWN HALL’S PLANS TO BUILD TWO GIANT TOWER BLOCKS AND A MONORAIL TRANSPORT SYSTEM IN THE ZONE.
The demonstration was organised by the citizen’s action group for sustainable development but had the support of the three opposition parties, PSOE, Partido Popular and Izquierda Unida. They hoped that the voice of the people would force the GIB administration to drop the two projects To be talked about at a council meeting on the following day.
NO SECOND THOUGHTS
However the Mayor, Enrique Bolín, may have heard the calls but he certainly wasn’t heeding them. He duly announced that the project to modernise the centre of Arroyo de la Miel would commence in 2005 and gave no indication that he was having second thoughts over the controversial twin towers.
Sr Bolín stated: “The remodelling of Arroyo is completely independent of the ‘two towers’ and the concession of a credit of 30 million euros means we can start work soon.”
WORK TO START IN 2005
Mayor Bolín added that he expects all the projects to be licensed within three months and work to start next year. Thirteen million euros of the credit amount would be destined for the modernisation of the centre of Arroyo de la Miel and this would be amortised with the town planning agreement for the twin towers that would generate 15 million euros for the Town Hall’s coffers.
The modernisation scheme would affect the area of the Avenida de la Constitución as far as the Calle García Lorca, the Plaza Mezquita and the adjacent streets. It would include new offices for various Town Hall departments as well as the terminus for the proposed monorail service and a depot for the fleet of microbuses.
By Dave Jamieson
A total of six Guadalhorce municipalities will benefit from grants awarded by the Tourism, Commerce and Sports department of the Junta de Andalucía. The total spending by the regional government of around 537,000 euros is for projects to embellish areas likely to attract tourists, and was formalised by Tourism delegate José Cosme when he visited Álora last week.
Amongst the projects approved for subsidies, Cártama gets 97,000 euros to improve the western access to the castle, Casarabonela receives over 160,000 euros for a major upgrading of Calle Catarraijana and for the construction of a viewpoint at Llano de Cristóbal to provide views of the river valley and the Sierra de la Nieves, while a payment of more than 26,000 euros goes to Pizarra to install new lighting on bridges over the Guadalhorce and to modernise its tourist office. Carratraca will be improving access to Calle Cementerio with its award of 30,000 euros and Ardales will be able to spend over 73,000 euros upgrading a stretch of Calle Castaña, so completing the renovation of the castle and the Nuestra Señora de los Remedios church.
The biggest sum goes to Álora which receives more than 150,000 euros for the construction of a view-point at Uriqui and for the embellishment of other zones.
Domestic violence figures revealed
By News Staff Reporters
AS CITIES, TOWNS AND VILLAGES THROUGHOUT SPAIN MARKED THE 'DAY OF NO VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN' DEMONSTRATION WITH CEREMONIES AND PROTEST PARADES DISTURBING NEW EVIDENCE OF THE RISE IN DOMESTIC VIOLENCE HAS COME TO LIGHT.
Around 2,500 gathered in the city of Málaga in the annual demonstration which, five years ago, prompted only 50 to turn out. They were joined by the mayor, members of the Town Council and the Junta de Andalucía. Vélez-Málaga Town Hall was adorned with a huge white ribbon and information leaflets were distributed. The Balcón de Europa was the scene of Nerja's demonstration, with 200 protestors hearing calls for the eradication of the ill-treatment of women. Throughout the region, the public and the authorities confirmed the message of zero tolerance on the subject with the same message: "No more silence. Domestic violence is your problem too."
According to data issued by the Ministry of the Interior every two hours three new cases of domestic violence are reported in Andalucía. Last year there was a 28 per cent increase in the number of cases in the region and a 24 per cent increase in domestic related deaths.
At a national level 2003 saw new methods introduced to combat the record number of maltreatment cases but the end result could be another record year in 2004. The total number of cases in 2003 was 50,008 but the figures up to September of this year were 43,569, over 200 cases more than in all 2002.
Politicians are now talking about domestic related violence in terms of an epidemic. Indeed the violence figures against women in some cases on a 'per thousand women basis' are similar to the incidence of some types of cancer. Nor is Spain alone. The rise in domestic violence cases is most acute is so-called advanced countries with Finland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Luxembourg, the UK and Germany having higher national averages than Spain.
Spanish government acts.
The number of domestic violence deaths in Spain this year totals 62. Now the government has acted by declaring war against what it has called 'domestic terrorism'.
The Minister of Work and Social Services, Jesús Caldera, has announced the launch of a nationwide telephone assistance service that he hopes will benefit more than 6,000 women before the end of this year. As of now threatened women can ask for these protection units at their local town hall.
The assistance programme is based on the use of mobile telephone and GPS tracking technology. It will allow women at risk from domestic violence to have round-the-clock contact with a control centre that will be able to determine their location by simply dialling a three-number code. The centre will be able to summon immediate police help and involve the closest social service unit to the victims.
Spectacular blaze in Estepona port
News Staff Reporter
There was a spectacular night-time blaze in Estepona's recreational port when a 25-metre boat went up in flames. The vessel that had been moored in the port for a month was totally destroyed in the inferno.
The fire took four hours to extinguish due to the 2,000 litres of fuel onboard. It was necessary to move another vessel moored nearby as it was damaged by the flames, as was a jet ski as well.
Police stated after the fire that they did not know the cause of the conflagration but would be carrying out a full investigation. The owners of the boat, both said to be foreigners, were away from Estepona at the time of the blaze.
Police smash child porn network
Nine arrests in Cádiz and Málaga provinces
By News Staff Reporters
A TOTAL OF 90 PEOPLE, 21 OF THEM MINORS AND ONE WOMAN, HAVE BEEN ARRESTED IN SPAIN AFTER A MAJOR NATIONAL POLICE STRIKE AGAINST CHILD PORNOGRAPHY. OF THOSE ARRESTED FIVE WERE DETAINED IN THE PROVINCE OF MÁLAGA WHILST ANOTHER FOUR WERE SEIZED IN CÁDIZ. ALL NINE WERE ADULTS.
Many of those arrested throughout Spain had good knowledge of the Internet and included university and college professors, students, information engineers, cleaners, public employees and military personnel.
In an operation code named 'Canal Grande' officers swooped on 87 dwellings in 26 provinces, the majority of the arrests being in Barcelona where 12 adults and four minors were held and in Madrid with 11 adults and three minors being arrested.
Police have confiscated numerous portable computers, over one hundred hard discs plus thousands of compact discs and DVDs. According to police sources stored on the hard discs are tens of thousands of high quality photographs of children being subjected to sexual abuse sometimes with adults.
The operation against child pornography commenced in June and was carried out by more than 150 officers of the specialized and violent crime unit of the Director General of the National Police. All the information obtained during the investigations has been made available to international police forces.
The head of the investigating unit, José Luis Oliveras, explained that in Spain there is no centre producing these images and all the children that appeared in the photographs , aged between 0 and 13 years of age were from South America.
Sr. Oliveras said the people detained were operating as a club swapping photo archives. The detained were being accused of allegedly storing, owning and distributing the illegal material over the Internet for no financial gain. He also added that all the minors arrested were believed to perpetrators and not victims of these offences, and said that parents should be aware of what was being stored on their home computers. A second operation , mounted by the Italian police, Interpol and Europol, arrested 65 more people for similar offences in Europe, America, Africa and Australia.
Divorce Law Reform
By Dave Jamieson
The Government has given the green light to reforms of the laws on separation and divorce. Last Friday, the Council of Ministers approved plans to change the Civil Code including the discontinuation of the requirement for a period of separation before divorce proceedings can begin. If the split is mutually agreed, the process will be much quicker, while the rights of children of the couple will be reinforced.
It is the introduction of rapid justice in civil courts next year which will permit a divorce to be finalised in "a few weeks", according to Justice Minister, Juan Fernando López Aguilar, speaking at a press conference in Madrid. Accompanied by the Government's vice president, María Teresa Fernández de la Vega, he underlined that the new arrangements would eliminate the problems and "shortcomings" of the existing legislation which is 25 years old. The Minister explained that the reform would remove the obligation to show cause, because the Government "wants separation and divorce without blame." He added, "If nobody asks you why you are getting married, nobody should ask you why you are divorcing". Under the present law, couples have to prove reasons for separation, from a range of criteria including alcoholism, abandonment and infidelity.
One of the principal changes will be the ability to proceed directly to divorce without the need for prior separation, so saving "costs and sufferings," said the Minister. After three months from their wedding, a couple will be able to ask for formal separation or divorce, although the period could be shortened in the case of ill-treatment. Presently, a year must pass before legal separation and a further year before divorce proceedings begin, followed by at least another 12 months before it is finalised. Under the new rules, uncontested divorces could go through in as little as two months.
With regard to children, the Minister assured that the new regulations would look after their best interests "for the improvement and better guarantee of their rights". He said parents would be able to propose which of them should be the guardian, although if there was no agreement, the court would decide. Further, the wishes and views of children over 12 years old, and those younger if the judge considered them mature enough, will be listened to and taken into account.
In the province of Málaga, four legal separations are granted every day, more than half by mutual agreement.